NC Congresswoman Adams: I’m “Appalled” By Police Use of Tear Gas on Protesters

Protesters attempt to assist a woman having an asthma attack after inhaling tear gas during a demonstration in Charlotte in May. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

By Sarah Ovaska

June 3, 2020

Rep. Alma Adams addressed the George Floyd protests and COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black families during a press briefing Wednesday.

NC Congresswoman Alma Adams says she wants to see North Carolina police departments halt the use of tear gas at protests, after a series of tense and occasionally violent altercations between police and demonstrators in the state following George Floyd’s death.

“I’m appalled at these chemical agents that they’re using,” Adams, a Democrat from Charlotte, said Wednesday, as she and other Democratic leaders from D.C. addressed recent protests against police brutality that have swept the nation following the death of Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died while in police custody.  

In Adams’ district, 50 complaints have been filed against the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for its use of teargas, flash bangs and pepper balls to disperse what appeared to be peaceful protestors Wednesday night.  

Adams was joined Wednesday by U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat whose district covers much of Eastern North Carolina, and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez. Their briefing focused on the effect of COVID-19 on Black North Carolinians and the protests. 

“The truth is at every step along the way, the Trump administration has ignored the racial disparities of this [COVID-19] crisis,” said Butterfield, “His response has completely left Black Americans behind.”  

US Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C.

Butterfield called on the Trump Administration to enroll more minority and Black-owned businesses in the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as to increase diagnostic and antibody testing among communities of color. 

Pandemic Hurting Black, Latinx Residents

Though 22% of North Carolina’s population identifies as Black, 29% of the state’s nearly 30,000 known COVID-19 cases have been reported among Black residents, according to data released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Even more concerning, 35% of those who have died in the state were Black. 

Latinos are also shouldering much of the disease’s burden and make up nearly four out of every 10 COVID-19 cases in the state, and 7% of the deaths. 

The reasons are complex and have to do with the fact that many Black and Latinx workers are in jobs considered essential – bus drivers, nursing home attendants, retail workers and meatpacking plant laborers. Then, there are disparities caused by health care access issues and racial biases that leave Black North Carolinas more prone to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. 

“Every day in the news we see the disproportionate impact that this pandemic is having on people of color in this country and, in North Carolina, it’s no exception,” said Adams. “This disparity is not hidden — it’s plainly happening in front of our eyes.” 

Another issue is the record rates of unemployment stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. North Carolina has had more than 1 million people apply for benefits. Nationally, less than half of Black adults are currently working, according to a data analysis by the New York Times. 

Alma said that she was disappointed that small businesses, including Black-owned businesses, faced issues securing funding from the first wave of Paycheck Protection Program funds. Going forward, more help needs to get to small businesses in need, she said. 

“We’re not sure about where this virus is going and how long it’s going to be around,” Adams said. “Congress has a responsibility to continue to provide support to our communities and that’s one of the things that we’ve tried to do with the HEROES Act and all of the other relief packages that we have put together.” 

North Carolina's COVID-19 cases, by race and ethnicity. Data from N.C. DHHS data, graphic by Cardinal & Pine.


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